Dear Starfish Diaries, Love Letters

A Love Letter to Me, from Me.

I took a little time away from writing.  I took a little time away from a lot of things.  Some of them were due to a minor injury: yoga, running.  Others were due to a general feeling of overwhelm (partially because I was missing the yoga and running), and that general feeling led to a general “hands in the air” approach to self care.  As this blog is essentially dedicated to self love and self care, I found myself up the proverbial Shit’s Creek.  And I chose to chuck my paddles overboard.  So I was stuck.  In the shit.

Unpleasant.

So this week I re-enter my life.  The one I want, that is.  The one where I take care of myself in a way that ensures that life’s stressors – of which there will always be many – don’t catch up with me in a way that can make me shut down.  Prevention is the best medicine, eh?  And when the illness to avoid is feeling like crappola physically and mentally (is that a scientific term?), I think the prevention is pretty critical.  I want to avoid that domino effect that culminates with me spending 3 hours every night watching mindless TV, just waiting until it’s not too embarrassingly early to go to bed, then lying there, dreading the morning.  Because in the morning my brain switches on again.  And it’s time to wait until bedtime.

Not the life I want for me.  Because I do actually like me.  Love me.  And if someone else I loved was feeling this way I’d have all sorts of great advice.  So this post is dedicated to me.  Promises, to me.  A love letter to me, from me.  And also to you.  Write a love letter to you- really do it, pen to paper.  You don’t have to publish it online if that’s not your jam.  But whether you’re in a good place or a really dark one, try treating yourself like someone you love, because you should be.  And I recommend this as a person who has to remind herself to do the same every day.

So.  Onward.

Dear Self,

You deserve to be really, completely, blissfully happy.  I want that for you.  You are a good, loving person, and, as the only creature in this world who is truly responsible for your well-being, I’ve let you down.  Over and over again, to be honest, but we’ve taken strides toward making our peace with the past, and will continue to do so forever.  Lately, in particular, it’s been a little rough, and I need to make a commitment to be better.  So we can get past this hump, too.

I promise to take care of your heart every day.  I will say nice things to you, and when I catch myself saying not nice things, I’ll try to notice quickly and change my words.  In the morning, I will feel gratitude for waking up, and at night I will thank you for the day.

I will move this body because I feel better all over when I do.  I will do yoga and walk and run and do all of these things gently for awhile so I don’t get a hurt back again.  And if I do, I won’t curse this body for being stupid or weak, but thank it for being strong and resilient and I’ll treat it very nicely until it feels better.  And when I am able to these things, I’ll make them a priority.  Even if the mind says watching TV is easier, I’ll remember that moving is so worth getting off the couch.  And I’ll feel grateful that I’m able to do so.

I will write.  Whether or not I publish what I write, I will write because I have things to say and sometimes my conscious mind can’t work out what’s in my subconscious mind without putting it on paper.  And we all know that communication is the key to a good relationship.

I promise to fill up this body with good, clean food, and lots of water.  Vegetables will be king, and I’ll make buying and preparing them a priority, because that’s what makes this body feel best.  I can’t promise not to eat pasta and sweets and too much hummus occasionally, but I can promise that when I do, I won’t beat myself up about it, but enjoy every bite.  I will drink water with lemon in the morning because it’s soothing and just feels like a nice deep breath of air.

I will take nice, deep breaths of air.  Fresh, when available.

I will absorb all the positive energy I possibly can.  I’ll read books by Glennon Doyle and Elizabeth Gilbert.  I’ll listen to music that makes me feel grounded and weightless at the same time, like Ong Namo, and everything by Dar Williams.  When I watch TV, it’ll probably be mindless, to be honest, but it will make me smile and laugh and never cry.

I promise to make time for the people in my life who lift me up, and to make sure they know I love them.  When I feel like I don’t want to speak to anyone because I’m struggling, I promise to let them know I’m ok and let them support me.

I will stop letting fear ruin entire days.  Whether it’s fear about money, health, the past, or the future, I promise to catch myself when I’m spiraling and take those deep breaths.  Hop into a downward dog.  Go for a run, eat a vegetable, call a friend.  Do all the loving things, because fear is not going to make life any richer, but those loving things absolutely will.  And all that really matters is today, anyway.

So, Self, I promise to love you like I love my family, and my friends, and my dog.  To forgive you just like I would forgive them.  And I do forgive you- I forgive me- for not always keeping these promises, because I’m just going to try harder every day.

And that’s a promise.

Love,

Me

 

 

Guest Posts, Starfish

The Truth Behind the Starfish…A Guest Post by Jim Weinpress

Note from Liz:

I’m thrilled to introduce you to my second guest blogger, Jim Weinpress.  He is one of my very favorite people on the planet, and not just because we’re related.  With many years of experience working with animals, he brings a fresh perspective to Starfish Diaries, and I think you’ll love it as much as I did!  Here’s Jim.

Starfish Diaries; an up and coming blog about living a happy, healthy life while learning the importance of loving yourself for better or for worse. I get it and I’m into it.  However, after working for almost a decade in the field of animal care, my initial thoughts go directly to a literal interpretation of this blog’s title. What would a starfish write about in its journal? Which arm would they choose to write with? They have anywhere from 5 to 40 depending on the species, of which there are roughly 2,000 described thus far. What would be on their minds? They certainly aren’t vegan; hunting and preying on a number of different marine species, but they do only eat locally grown items.

So there’s that.

I decided after some intense thought, and plenty of reading up on starfish, I would dedicate this guest blog to sharing with you how starfish themselves reflect upon us the same wisdom of this blog and why you should appreciate these remarkable animals…for better or for worse.

We all know that living a good life begins and ends with honesty. This is true for the relationships we build with others to understanding our own strengths and weaknesses through introspection. Starfish, though, are lying to themselves. They aren’t fish. Far from it, actually.  Starfish are echinoderms, invertebrates that are related to sea urchins and sand dollars. A more appropriate nickname is the sea star but for the sake of this blog we’ll humor them just this one time.

A key component to physical health is getting outside and exercising! The hugely beneficial practice of yoga, a frequent topic in this blog, is enjoying mainstream popularity now and for good reason. It strengthens the muscles, builds endurance, and gives one ample time to meditate and reflect upon oneself. Starfish may appear rigid and immobile at first glance, but if you’re patient and have an hour or two to kill while you’re out snorkeling, they’ll show you their ability to move throughout their complex marine environment with unbelievable agility and efficiency. Starfish use water, not blood, to power their limbs to move relying on hundreds of small tubular feet on their underside to cling to whatever surface they choose. This is a far cry from the rigid skeletons you see for sale at cheesy tourist traps.

Lastly, let’s touch upon diet. Eating foods free of preservatives, excess sodium, and sugar (you know all the stuff that makes bad food DELICIOUS) is the best way to stay fit and feel energized. You really won’t experience the best results of regular exercise unless you pair it with a healthy diet to match. So here we have a starfish that isn’t a fish, and looks more like a ninja weapon than anything lifelike. Leave it to an extraordinary animal to eat in an extraordinary way. Once a starfish locates a prey item; usually a mollusk like a clam or mussel, they use those powerful water powered arms to force open the shell. When the shell is opened they push out their stomachs through the opening in the underside of their bodies and engulf them, leaving only the leftover shell. You read correctly, they barf up their stomachs. This gives whole new meaning to the saying “Let’s get take-out!” Yum! And much like me during my college years, many species of starfish are opportunistic feeders, consuming anything they can find. This includes scallops, oysters, sand dollars, dead fish, sponges, plankton, and coral.

In conclusion, we can learn a lot from the humble starfish. These unique animals quietly live their lives the best they can, making the most of being a small invertebrate in a big ocean. And when life get them down, they grow from their mistakes. Literally. They can grow back entire arms and sections of their bodies! Now if that’s not inspirational then I don’t know what is! Nature is crazy! Now go live your life and be happy and healthy. And next time you’re swimming around in the ocean and you catch a glimpse of a starfish, take an extra moment to admire these spectacular creatures!

Adventures in Anxiety, Dear Starfish Diaries

Pulled Together on the Inside

I like to look put together.  I’m no fashion model, and my hair and makeup routine is pretty efficient, but I have the basics down.  Earrings are a must.  Hair wrestled into straight lines or pulled back, enough makeup to look even-toned and bright-eyed.  Outfit pulled together and un-spilled-upon (at least to start).  Ready to face the world as the polished, together woman that I want to be.  Nothing to betray the hum of anxiety and self-doubt that is ever-present below the surface.

During my lowest point with anxiety, I lost the ability to fake it.  Goodbye, hygiene; Hello torn sweatpants.  But this was an extreme, and I’m usually a pro at putting a pulled-together face forward despite how I might feel inside.

Lately, however, I’ve noticed a shift.  While I’m still working on a lot (A LOT) personally, I’m starting to notice that I actually do feel pulled together on the inside.  The hum is quieting down significantly.

And suddenly…looking put together seems to be dipping lower on my scale of priorities.  I’m not going to work in my torn sweats (threw those suckers away), but I wear my naturally curly hair, well, naturally curly once in a while.  I don’t always feel the need to don a full face of makeup.  And the sky has YET to fall!  My only conclusion is that when I feel pulled together for real…I don’t feel that I need to prove it.

Fascinating.

This realization led to some further investigating.  Where else in my life have I put on a front in an effort to hide the mess below the surface?  I’m glad you asked!

Social Media

For years, I posted pictures of fun nights out and happy birthday messages.  And nothing else.  I shied away from Instagram and Twitter; uncomfortable with exposure and comparison.  Worried I didn’t have the right look/opinion/sense of humor/age to fit in.  Blend in.  Well, as you may have guessed from this blog, I’ve fully embraced full exposure.

If I enjoy a video with a message that isn’t for everyone?  I like it!  I might even share it!  See a group that interests me?  I join!  I even actively participate in conversation!  When I felt like I had something to say, and that saying it publicly might benefit myself and others?  I started a blog.

In the past, I thought these acts of shameless self expression were tantamount to tattooing one’s face- you’ll never work in this town again!  Everyone will know what you’ve done!  DOOOOOM!

But once again, the sky did not fall.

Exercise

When I run, I like to wear spandex shorts that won’t chafe or ride up.  However, said shorts are a straight shot to a muffin top.  I would have DIED before facing the world this way in the past.  Lately I’m less fazed.  I can’t say I’m thrilled when I run by a shiny building and see my reflection.  But then I remember that I’m running.  Workin on mah fitness.  So who cares if they see my roll?  I’m clearly working on getting rid of it, and escaping the experience un-chafed!

When I tried yoga years ago, I liked it, but I was TOTALLY uncomfortable with the OM-ing and the Savasana-ing, the incense and the Buddhas.  When I let go of my ego, stopped worrying if I looked cool (I never do, so why bother?), and drank the delicious yoga kool aid, I found out that I loved it!  And it’s become a huge part of my self care routine; only increasing my ability to feel pulled together on the inside.  Funny how that works.

Friendships

I’m a little embarrassed to say that even into my 30s, I felt like I needed to know all the cool kids.  I thought it was important to have a big group of friends, and know people everywhere I go.  Then I moved 1,000 miles away, to a city where I knew all of 1 person, that being my husband.

Sky still not falling.

My handful of close friends are still close.  I feel closer to my husband.  And I’m very picky about who I choose to spend my time with- so suddenly my time is much better spent!  It’s a lot of work to keep up with the whole world, and quantity is far from synonymous to quality.  When I go to a coffee shop, or the mall, or a yoga class, I’m really ok doing it on my own.  This is a major shift.

If I like my own company, could that mean…I like ME?

I don’t have big enough words to express what a huge deal this revelation is.  I’ll make one up.  HUMONGOLICIOUS.   Use it.  Hashtag it.  You have my blessing.

Singing in the Car

This doesn’t need much of an explanation.  Where I used to close my windows and look straight ahead when another car was next to me, now I rock out.

Embracing the Weird and the Unpopular

  • Some of the things I eat are weird to the majority of the population.  Nutritional yeast, dandelion root, kimchi (straight out of the jar, YUM).  But instead of shame-eating in the car, I spread the word!  There is some yummy stuff here, take a bite!
  • I’ve said it before, but I love a good pimple popping video.  It’s gross, I know.  But I’m owning it.  And I KNOW I’m not alone.
  • I love the Kardashians.  I know it’s not cool to think they are the BEST, but I do.  If Keeping Up is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
  • I’m vegan.  Not to lose weight, not to get healthy.  I’m vegan because I think it’s wrong to hurt another living creature so I can have a meal.  It’s not popular, it makes some people uncomfortable, but there you have it.
  • If you have a dog, I want to pet him.  I’ll ask first (I’m not a caveman), but trust me, I WILL ask.  Even if I have to cross the street to do so.
  • I hate scary movies because they give me nightmares.  I’m not trying to be cute, and I’m not kidding.  I might even leave the room during a scary commercial.  I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve suffered through trying to deny it, but no more!  Give me a rom-com any day.  Preferably one I’ve seen already, so I’m prepared for anything that might make me sad.

If I have a choice, I’d much rather have it together on the inside than look pulled together on the outside.  I’m certainly shooting for both, but it’s nice to know that the pressure is off.  Makeup is easier to apply when you’re accentuating beautiful features rather than covering up ugly blemishes.  My blemishes are still there, but they’re not so ugly after all, and I’m ok with the world seeing them occasionally.  The world isn’t really looking that closely anyway.

 

Adventures in Anxiety, Dear Starfish Diaries, Guest Posts

Guest Blogger Emilie Castro: In Honor Of Mental Health Awareness Month

Welcome to the very first GUEST BLOGGER post on Starfish Diaries!  I’m beyond thrilled to introduce you to the talented, brilliant, hilarious Emilie Castro, who I have been so lucky to know for the vast majority of my life.

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it would be a good time to feature one of my greatest supporters.  Whether you struggle with mental health or not (don’t we all, if we’re honest, to some degree?), I hope you have someone in your life who lifts you up, loves you unconditionally, and makes you laugh even when you feel like all is lost.

And you know what?  If you don’t have that person right now, find them!  There are groups everywhere, and a great place to start is by reaching out to NAMHI to find resources near you.  The voices in your head will tell you that you are alone, you are the only one suffering, that you don’t deserve help or love- and they are LIARS.

You are not alone.  You are in GOOD COMPANY- we’re all going through something, and we’re all crazy!  You deserve to feel good, and happy, and supported.

I mean, they gave Mental Health Awareness its own month.  Clearly this is a thing.

Enjoy this introduction from Emilie.  I think you’ll love her, because I do.  With all my heart.

 

 

Greetings!  I’m Em.  Liz and I have been friends for about thirty years.

While she and I have our own unique story and experience, I think it’s useful to acknowledge how our relationship has always included a significant amount of reciprocal mental and emotional support.

For the past twenty years, we’ve spend A. LOT. of time talking about our brains.

Early on, the conversations were heavily focused on boys and wondering how they could be so oblivious to our charms. We were [and continue to be] awesome and the lack of interest was a cruel oversight by the eligible male population.

Bastards.

[Shout out to our excellent spouses who appreciate the weird.  Most of the time.]

Aside from boys, we also spent ample amounts of time discussing stress, our bodies, our worries, our futures, and speculating if we were normal.

Survey says we’re NOT normal, but I’m confident we’re stellar humans and that being normal is overrated.

These chats occurred while: at Starbucks drinking beverages that wreaked havoc on our insides; driving aimlessly in a crappy car(s); listening to wildly angst-y music; writing chatty notes during class or study hall; all while trying to figure out if we were okay.

Surprise!

There were tons of times we were NOT. OKAY.

Our mental health chats continue today, albeit with less/no coffee, better cars, less money from our parents, the same excellent music, and email/text.

We’ve also evolved through educating ourselves, working with medical professionals, developing successful coping mechanisms, some well-prescribed drugs, and other tools.

Note, while I’m grateful Liz and I share this aspect of our lives, it’s important to remember your friends and family don’t need to have a mental illness to support you.

Today, I’m happy to be part of Liz’s story and to see her sharing her struggles and successes with others. I’m proud of all she’s accomplished and can’t wait to see where she’s headed next.

As for me, I’ll probably pop back in here and there to share experiences and other random nonsense if allowed. I have so much nonsense to share.

Casseroles, Recipes, Vegan Livin

Vegan Mac and Cheese Casserole to Knock Your Socks Off

Since I became vegan, there have been certain foods I’ve missed more than others.  My go-to comfort foods have taken the hardest hit.  One of those feel-good casualties was mac and cheese.  Specifically, homemade mac and cheese casserole.  The creamy, bread-crumby, warm, gooey goodness that makes you want to curl up in the bowl and live there.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anywho, I shocked myself AND my husband by creating a mac and cheese casserole SO creamy… SO crumb-y… SO satisfyingly filling that it requires draw-string pants for consumption.  No skinny jeans up in here.

And seriously- the fact that my husband (the meat and potatoes man who wouldn’t even try hummus when I first met him) not only tried, but LOVED this casserole- it’s a big freaking deal.  So here goes.

Ingredients:

For the Cheese Sauce:

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in 3 cups of water overnight (as I’ve said before, I will try to find an alternate nut in the future that is produced in a more person-friendly fashion)
  • Nutritional Yeast- I use a powder form, but flakes will do as well
  • Garlic Salt
  • Sea Salt- I prefer Pink Himalayan but any kind will do
  • Cayenne Pepper (optional)
  • Unsweetened Almond or Soy milk

For the Casserole:

  • 1 box pasta of choice, I use Rotini- boiled until just under-cooked (al dente, eh?) and strained
  • 2 cups bread crumbs- I put a couple slices of sprouted bread in the food processor until they were ground up to crumbs, but whatever floats your boat
  • Dollop Veganaise or alternate vegan mayo

  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • Olive oil (for a drizzle)
  • 1 cup chopped up tomatoes
  • 1/3 large onion, diced

  • 1/8 cup ground flaxseed to thicken- you can add more if your sauce came out thinner than you’d like.

 

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

From here it gets super easy.  I love me a recipe that involves throwing everything together.

  • For the cheese sauce:
    • Pour your soaked cashews into the blender, water and all.  Blend until smooth.
    • Add in a healthy portion of nutritional yeast, I was happy with about 1/2 cup
    • Add about 1/8 cup of almond or soy milk and blend again until creamy.  Add more if needed to achieve desired consistency.
    • Add garlic salt, sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste.  Personally, I start with a teaspoon of each and just keep licking the spoon until I’m happy.  Let’s be honest, I’m happy the whole time.  It’s delicious.
    • Continue to blend until creamy- should be the consistency of nacho cheese, or slightly thinner.
    • Set aside.  Like, far away from yourself and any nachos, pretzels, spoons, or other vehicles that will try to force you to eat straight from the blender.

  • On to the casserole:
    • Pour your drained pasta into a large mixing bowl.
    • Add diced tomato and onion, veganaise and mustard, stir.  If you aren’t a mayo or mustard person, you can totally leave these out.  I just like the extra tang they add, personally.
    • Stir in 1/2 of your breadcrumbs and the ground flaxseed.
    • Top that beautiful mess with your cashew cheese and stir to combine.
    • Plop entire mixture into a 2 qt casserole dish.
    • Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs on top, and drizzle with olive oil.

  • Loosely cover the concoction with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, allow to sit for 20 minutes (IF YOU CAN).

Serve to your salivating guests with a side of Franks Red Hot, which will make your masterpiece even more delectable.

I was so pleased with this casserole, and would love to hear about your results.  As you may have gathered, I really don’t measure too precisely, so feel free to play around.  Cooking should be fun, and one of the many benefits to vegan cooking is that no raw eggs or meat means you can lick your fingers from start to finish!

Bon Appetit!

 

Adventures in Anxiety, Dear Starfish Diaries, Yogalicious

How to shake a bad case of the “shoulds.”

“Stop worrying about whether you’re doing it right, because you’re probably not.”

I heard some version of this quote on a podcast recently, in a discussion about the best advice one had ever gotten from a yoga teacher.  I loved it immediately, not only because it rings comically true for my yoga practice, but also because I’d love for it to be my motto for life overall.  It makes me laugh and feel free.  I literally breathe easier after reading the words.

Lately I’ve been putting some effort into letting go of my “shoulds.”  I am plagued by shoulds every day, and each time I’m able to recognize one enough to release its grip on me, I feel lighter and happier immediately.  One might say I should do this as much as possible.  (See what I did there?)

I should be more successful.  I should be better with money.  I should be thinner.  I should be able to run farther and faster.  I should want to go to the hard yoga class.  I should eat kale.  I should bake my own cookies.  I should want kids.  I should like cilantro.  I should have more friends.  I should read more serious books.

I have a bad case of the shoulds.  And I’m trying very hard to shake them.

There are 2 conflicting theories on how to shake the shoulds.  The opposing sides argue for hours, and it’s exhausting.  Truly, because the argument is happening in my head.  Typically at 2am.  When I SHOULD be sleeping.

Eyes…closing…

Theory 1 is all about rationalizing.

Exhibit A: I should bake my own cookies.  My grandma baked, my mom bakes, my sister bakes.  So many happy memories bubble up to the surface when I smell cookies baking.  But damn, I hate to do it.  My cooking style is one of whims: a dash of this and a pinch of that- none of this measurement nonsense.  Baking, for me, is restrictive and booooring.  Who cares if I like baking, right?  Well, apparently I do, and I feel guilty every time I buy a (vegan) baked good instead of making a batch at home.  But Team Theory 1 steps in to arbitrate that guilt by reasonably arguing that if I did bake at home, I’d eat far too many of my finished (and unfinished, let’s just be honest about the delicious gift that is cookie dough) product.  Buying a single cookie saves money on ingredients and saves me from my gluttonous self.  Toodaloo guilt!  My inner lawyer rests its case.

Theory 2 is more inclined to say “F-you” to the should situation.  Theory 2 is a bit of a bully with good intentions.

Exhibit B: I should want to have kids.  I don’t need to go into all of the reasons that this causes internal strife.  There are novels written on the subject, so I’ll spare you a paragraph of what you’ve already heard.  Team Theory 2 hears little internal Liz quietly worrying about what it means if she does not want to procreate, and bitch-slaps her right across the face.  Then proceeds to sucker punch any other nagging thoughts that try to wiggle their way to the surface to drive the point home.  Team Theory 2 does not tolerate the shoulds.  TT2 says I am just right the way I am, and nobody, not even my own self-doubt, gets to tell me how to live my life.  #2 is my biggest fan, my strongest bodyguard, and my inner badass.

Between my inner lawyer and inner badass, I’m making progress at releasing my shoulds, and thus living my life free(er) from guilt.  Not that I don’t appreciate guilt for the inner crossing guard that she serves as (it gets crowded in my head with all of these characters), but feeling bad about not enjoying amusement parks really doesn’t serve me in any way.  I can still be a good person without loving roller coasters.  And cilantro.

“Stop worrying about whether you’re doing it right, because you’re probably not.”

Back to the awesome yogi’s quote that I started with.  If you are kind, you’re doing life right.  If you are cruel, you’re not.  Otherwise, there is very little cut-and-dry ‘right versus wrong’ conversation out there.  So for the little things (and so much of life is little things), nobody is right, because we’re all just doing the best we can.  My downward dog is never going to be perfect, but since no human body is the same, there is no such thing as perfect.  Similarly, I’m never going to love every superfood (kale is the worst), nor will I enjoy the same exercises as the ultra-athlete beside me, but I’ll be winning in some other aspect of my life that even she may envy.  I make a damn good roasted chickpea, for example.

My beaten-down point, in case you haven’t gotten it and moved on already, is that there is no “right” when it comes to this flawed, messy, delicious life.  There are so many coulds and woulds.  Shake off your shoulds and keep doing the best you can.

 

Dear Starfish Diaries, Health, Recipes, Snacks, Vegan Livin

Lessons Learned from 4 Weeks off Processed Foods, and My Roasted Chickpeas Recipe

A few weeks ago, I finished up a 4 Week Food Plan with the intention of cutting processed foods out of my diet.  For the first 3 weeks, I was writing weekly updates on my progress, and then, whether you realized it or not, I kind of let the subject drop.  That was intentional, because I kind of had a temper tantrum.  I’m ready to talk about it now.

Last time I brought it up, I was super frustrated.  I was off of artificial sweetener, added sugar, and white carbs.  I was well on my way to also cut out any snacks that were not whole foods i.e. fruits and vegetables.  However, I was still feeling bloated and uncomfortable after most meals.  My next plan was to cut out gluten as an experiment, with high hopes of feeling light and slim and bloat-free.  No dice.  I found myself eating pretty much 100% high fiber food, causing more discomfort, and when I went so far as to use a meal-tracker app, I threw my hands up with some choice 4 letter words.

That damn app.  Told me my fiber intake was too high, as were my sugar and carbs (a girl can’t eat an apple??), my protein was too low (quick side note- I have plenty of protein in my diet.  I’ve been medically tested.  Many people/apps/articles claim we need way more protein than we actually do.  And BTW vegetables HAVE PROTEIN.  Rant over.), and my sodium was all over the place.  I didn’t know which way was up, couldn’t tell the difference between how I felt versus how the app was telling me I should feel (am I hyper off sugar?  exhausted and protein deficient?  should I be rushing to the bathroom every 5 minutes?  WHAT IS REAL???), and I really gave up.  I went to the store and bought a bag of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos.

But a weird thing happened.  I ate like 2 chips and felt gross!  My body literally told me to stop eating them.  Then I went for a run, and when I got home I felt better.  Energized.  Less bloated.

So on to the next day, and I ate what my body craved.  Which, low and behold, was whole foods.  Sweet potatoes, fruit smoothies, even sprouted bread with natural peanut butter!  Without realizing it, I had turned a corner, and hit a reset button.  I was just so busy following rules and watching numbers that I had also tuned out from my body’s signals.

Well let’s just stop that immediately.

So now I’m eating what makes me feel good, and learning as I go.  The 4 weeks really did make a difference, as I’m not reaching for processed foods nearly as much, but I’m also not holding myself to a standard of perfection.  And gluten is safe for now- as long as I’m balancing my grains with my fiber and continuing to move my body I seem to be able to function without feeling like a big gas balloon.  Sexy, eh?

With that learning experience behind me, I’m having fun in the kitchen!  Since Doritos are no longer my jam, I needed a new salty, crunchy treat in my life.  Enter the roasted chickpea.

There are lots of ways to roast a chickpea (is that like the vegan version of “many ways to skin a cat?”), so I played around with the bajillion recipes on pinterest until I found my own combo that I liked.  Maybe start with mine and then do your own experimenting.

You’ll need:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans for the newly initiated)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon seasoning of your choice- I use a garlic and herb blend from Kissed By The Sun, but other options are garlic powder, cayenne pepper, etc.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place foil over a cookie sheet, unless you don’t mind having yellow-stained cookie sheets.

Drain and rinse chickpeas, and place in a mixing bowl.  Pour oil over the mixture and coat.  Add seasonings, and feel free to adjust measurements to taste.  Keep in mind that the saltiness will increase with baking.  Also beware taste testing prior to baking.  Sometimes you wind up having to open a third can.  Just sayin.

Once the chick peas are coated, pour onto baking sheet.  Be sure to drizzle all that flavorful goodness from the bowl onto your little friends.  Place in oven for 20 minutes, then remove and give a little shake to move them around.  Cook another 10 minutes, until they are golden brown but not burned!  Let cool (if you have any willpower, which I do not) and enjoy!

Store outside of the fridge for up to 2 days in tupperware or ziploc bags.  After that I can’t vouch for their crunchiness.  Mine are gobbled up long before that amount of time.

Enjoy your crunchy snack!  They are delicious on a salad, or all by themselves.  I’m obsessed, and I would love to hear how you like them.  

 

 

Dear Starfish Diaries, Health, Vegan Livin

A Taste of What’s to Come

I’m invading your inbox today not for a full length blog post, but to give you a sneak preview…a “taste” if you will…of some additions coming soon to Starfish Diaries!

Numero Uno…Recipes!  I’m certainly not a professional chef, but I have a lot of fun putting together creative, good-for-you, vegan recipes in the kitchen.  My only rules are that every recipe be simple, inexpensive, and of course, delicious.  To my husband’s chagrin, my normal cooking style is pretty fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, and I can’t say I’ve ever really minded whether i could reproduce any one creation.  That stops now!  I’m putting together some fun, easy, delicious meals that you will be able to: A) Make super quick, B) Set and forget, i.e. crock-pot style, or C) Make in big batches and eat all week!  Often all of the above.  So stay tuned, and get hungry!

Numero Dos…Guest Posts!  Once a month- timeline subject to change- I will have a guest blogger post a titillating article for your reading pleasure.  If you think you’d like to throw your hat into the Starfish ring, send me a message on the “Contact Us” page, or in the comments below.  Get excited…I have some humdingers lined up for ya.

Numero Tres…Work with me!  This will only excite you if you are looking for a writer, but it’s news nonetheless.  See new page here for more info.

I hope you’re psyched, because I sure am!  I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and requests.

Adventures in Anxiety, Dear Starfish Diaries

The Vigilant Gatekeeper: protecting myself from anxiety triggers, and fun facts about popcorn.

As a person with anxiety, I find that I have to be a vigilant gatekeeper for the information that I allow myself to digest.  For example, I am very careful not to read books or watch movies that are very sad or very scary.  Scratch that- even a little sad or a little scary.  I’m just not able to take that content and distinguish my reaction from my organic emotions.  I’ll be very sad or very scared for REAL, and it will take a long time to shake those feelings.  If you think that sounds silly, I totally agree.  I really tried to make it not true, and tortured myself with horror movies and Nicholas Sparks novels for years before I came to a place of acceptance.  So if you hang with me, no, I did not read that book about the girl with cancer, or the dog that died.  And if we’re going to the movies, prepare yourself for a rom-com.  I’ll buy the popcorn.  (Total side note- most movie theater popcorn is vegan!  That radioactive looking “butter” they used is typically soy-based, and dairy free.  Zero nutritional value, and will probably take a year or two off your life, but cruelty free!  Vegan high fives all around.)

Anywho, my emotional defensive game is a critical part of staying mentally healthy.  It applies not only to entertainment sources; but also to conversational topics, specific memories that trigger strong feelings, and even certain people.  I’m not walking around with giant walls up and shunning anyone who reminds me of a childhood bully, but I maintain a steady awareness of what’s allowed to sink in to my delicate psyche.  I get better at this every day, as I get to know myself and learn about what make me feel good versus what makes me feel ick.

Unfortunately, the world does not cater to my needs (it should work on that), and sometimes I’m caught off guard.  Sometimes a toxic little seed will slip between the cracks of my consciousness, and before I realize it’s there, weeds of negativity are growing like, well, weeds.  Unfortunately, their growth only widens the cracks, and allows more unwelcome crap to fall through.  It’s a vicious cycle.

It happened a couple weeks ago.  I was speaking to a woman who helps people to detoxify their diets.  I was intrigued, and excited to learn more about clean eating, as I’ve been working on that part of my life.  One of the first things she pointed out was the “frown line” on my forehead.  The bane of my existence- I know it’s there, I know I make it worse when I’m concentrating and furrow my brow, and I dislike it mucho.  However, she informed me that my line indicates that my liver isn’t functioning correctly, and it’s in desperate need of a detox.  Totally threw me for a loop.  And by loop, I mean spiral.  I went from feeling self conscious, to concerned, to convinced I was dying of liver failure in a matter of minutes.  Not her intention, but health stuff scares me, and as I wasn’t expecting a diagnosis from this (completely non-medical) person, it slipped through the cracks.

Shortly after this incident, I was getting my hair cut.  The stylist noticed some broken hair near my part and asked what caused it.  I explained that I wear a ponytail too often, have my forehead on the mat a lot in yoga, sleep with wet hair, etc.  Nope.  According to her, my hormones and/or my thyroid are in trouble.  It’s the only explanation.  Better get that checked, quick.  Oh dear, the weeds keep a-growin.

Did either of these people intend to upset me?  Of course not!  They thought they were helping.  But their unsolicited diagnosis were poison to my brain- a brain that is home to anxiety just itching for something to feed on.

For the record, my liver is fine.  So is my thyroid, and my hormones.  I know this, but the rational part of me doesn’t come out to play when anxiety is running the show.  She’s such a bully.

But you know what?  Lesson learned.  My gatekeeper just got a little stronger.  Next time someone offers medical counsel (besides my doctor, who I go to when I actually do know something is wrong), I will nod and smile and let it slide off of me like movie theater butter.  Not let it absorb, not let it grow into something bigger than it actually is.

It’s a marathon, this learning to know and love myself business.  Not a sprint.  And every time I hit a wall, I figure out how to go around it next time.  When I look back, I’m grateful for every obstacle, because it got me here; to a place where I know so much more about how to take care of my most valuable resource- me!

Full disclosure: when I’m in the thick of anxiety, I am not grateful- I’m terrified and I’m pissed about it- but I also know I’ll get through it.

I’m sitting on my floor, enjoying a gorgeous Saturday in Florida, munching on (what else) lentil hummus.  In this moment, life is pretty perfect.  My gatekeeper can go on break.

Dear Starfish Diaries, Health, Vegan Livin

Vegan is not a 4 letter word. And yes, I miss cheese.

I’ve been meaning to write a post on veganism for awhile, but struggled to find the right time.  I know that any mention of a vegan lifestyle is an immediate turnoff for a lot of people, and it was important to me to establish myself as a non-judgy, somewhat normal (hmm, might’ve failed there) fellow human before risking my audience’s reaction to a post with “vegan” in the title.  I’m not sure if I’m there yet, and let’s be honest, my audience is still in its early stages (those of you who are here are just the BEST.  THE BEST!).  But hell, there’s no time like the present, and if you haven’t run away screaming yet, we might just have a chance to get through this together.

I think part of me always felt a little wrong eating meat.  I had to deliberately not think about where my food came from, because the reality gave me a guilty feeling.  Now, as a person with anxiety, I am plagued by guilty feelings pretty much all of every day, and sometimes deliberately ignoring them is the right thing to do.

 No, Liz, you did not offend the scary homeless person by locking your doors.  Just because you didn’t say “I love you” before you hung up the phone does not mean something horrible will happen causing you to regret it for the rest of your life.  Yes, the stove was off when you left the house.  Why?  Because you haven’t cooked in a week.  

However, this guilty feeling felt different.  I suspected something bad was happening, and if I let myself really KNOW about the bad stuff, I could never un-know it.  So I kept not knowing.

The feeling became stronger when I got involved with animal rescue.  Stronger still when I let myself learn about how smart, sensitive, and relationship-oriented farm animals are.  Then I read the book.

I really just wanted to lose weight, dude- not change my entire value system.

It was called “Skinny Bitch.”  I thought it might make me feel cool and get skinny all at once.  Nah.  It went waaay into factory farming, the horrendous treatment of farm animals, and the inevitable ending of lives that we studiously ignore or try to convince ourselves is “humane.”  Shit.  Couldn’t un-know it anymore.

So I became a vegetarian on the spot, and truly never looked back.  Did burgers and barbecue still smell delicious to me?  Heck yeah!  Do they to this day?  Sure do, I’m sorry to say.  But I also feel really sad when I walk past the meat section, and have nightmares- real ones- that I accidentally start eating meat again.

I dabbled in veganism over the years, but always went back to eggs and dairy, telling those around me that I just felt depleted, and it was too hard.  Those around me readily agreed that going vegan is just crazy and not sustainable.  But the more I read about the egg and dairy industries, and how they really are the SAME as the meat industry, the less I could un-know that, too.  So vegan I became, and depleted I am not.  I eat plenty, and while I struggle with balancing fiber and protein and carbs and all the vitamins and minerals we need to live- that has nothing to do with my vegan lifestyle, and everything to do with bread and oreos tasting better than spinach and beans!  There is truly no difference in difficulty balancing a vegan diet versus a non-vegan diet.  We all have to say no to pizza once in a while if we want to feel good.

The purpose of this post is not to force you to become vegan, or to make you feel bad about your lifestyle.  The purpose of this blog as a whole is to make you feel good about yourself, and to encourage you to make others feel good as well.  For me, vegan is the only way I can live my life and feel good about me.  And do I wish that everyone was vegan, and no animal had to suffer?  Absolutely.  But I ate animals for most of my life, and the people I love most in the world eat animals, and while that makes me sad, it doesn’t make me love them any less.

I’m vegan because I believe that every living creature has value.  If I devalue you for not being vegan, I don’t have much of a leg to stand on, do I?  

I’ve joined and then left many a vegan group online, finding them to be far too hateful.  It makes me think of pro-life groups who murder gynecologists.  That contradiction will forever baffle me.  When I became vegan, it was out of love, and if someone had tried to shame me, or call me names, or try to hurt me before I made that choice, I would have run as far in the other direction as my appetite could take me!

When people come to me asking for education on the vegan diet, I so so happily comply.  If you would like some information here on this blog that I haven’t offered up already, I will so so happily provide it!  And if you had a chicken dinner tonight but still want to ask me questions, I will just as gladly oblige.

If you haven’t already, I would urge you to check out one of my favorite sanctuary stories, Esther the Wonder Pig.  Esther’s dads follow an “Esther Approved Diet,” shying away from the less favorable vegan label.  Their loving way of promoting a kindness based lifestyle is completely inspiring, and I truly think they’re changing the world.

I’ll write more in the future about specific dietary choices, but for now I wanted to put my thoughts out there to encourage you to be less afraid of the word “vegan.”  I get it- even when I was vegetarian, vegan sounded scary, and made me feel bad.  And I clung to eggs and cheese like nobody’s business.  But I eat plenty of delicious food now, and don’t feel deprived, and it has nothing to do with willpower, and everything to do with what feels like the right thing to do.

But yes, I miss cheese.  Vegan cheese sucks.  And bacon will always smell good and make my stomach growl.  Veggie burgers are delicious, but turkey burgers were my fave, and I sure wish turkeys were jerks.  I do have moments when I feel like it’s unfair that I made this choice while the rest of the world dines away happily, but they pass.  I have many more moments when I feel really proud of who I am, proud of the label, and hey- lentil hummus is vegan, so life is pretty damn good.

If anything from this post sticks with you, I hope these three things do:

  • Vegan is not a bad word; it is based upon love, not hate.
  • Check out Esther the Wonder Pig.  Even if she doesn’t change your life, you’ll be glad you did.
  • I think you are fantastic.